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What is KD good at? Dorrell's talent gap ...

So Dorrell's team is less than mediocre (by UCLA standards on the field). He has not exactly been an exemplary coach when it comes to projecting the image of a clean cut football program off the field (it's Dorrell recruits who are now forming a fresh underbelly). So you would think Dorrell must be superb at something? Perhaps recruiting? Well let's see here.

Since the NFL draft last weekend we have had some good discussion on the NFL level talent Dorrell has squandered in Westwood. McCloskey showed how during his 3 years in Westwood UCLA was ranked 3rd in the Pac-10 in terms of no. of players drafted by the NFL. Coco also did a detailed post providing statistics on recruiting, winning records, and NFL draftees coming up with this observation (emphasis mine):

But, in broad strokes, you can see that USC had far and away the best recruiting/record/number of NFL draftees; UCLA had the 2nd best recruiting, 4th best conference record, and 3rd best number of NFL players, etc., etc. On the basis of recruiting alone, it seems as though USC has performed as one might expect (very, very well); Cal, Oregon and OSU have slightly overperformed; UCLA has underperformed; Arizona and Washington have significantly underperformed.
Any way you look at it - it is reasonable to conclude that under Dorrell UCLA has underperformed on the field squandering the NFL talent he inherited from Bob Toledo (even this year two out of the three UCLA draftees were Toledo recruits). But what we also should be concerned about is the huge talent gap that has emerged between USC and UCLA during the four mediocre years of Karl Dorrell. And yes ... we are consumed with USC here in the BruinsNation because they are our natural rival. We expect UCLA to be in the same league as USC football (UCLA football is a not a pathetic loser program like USC basketball, that's whole another post anyways). But Dorrell was brought into UCLA not only to clean up some of the off field issues from Toledo program (which now looks trivial compared to what Pom Pom's gang banging thugs are up to in South Central), but also to compete on the field. Karl Dorrell was brought into Westwood so that our teams would be "firing out" on the field, and compete for the Pac-10 and national titles. Those were DG's expectations and all of our expectations. But if we look at the trend lines in recruiting after four years of Dorrell the pattern is not that encouraging. Thanks to Dorrell's lukewarm recruiting there is now a gigantic talent gap between USC and USC.

First, if you still have not read it yet, I'd advise you please take the time to read Odysseus's post on talent and recruiting, which makes it clear Dorrell inherited more than enough talent to be competitive with USC. Toledo was bringing in highly ranked recruiting classes since 1998. His last full recruiting class was ranked in the top-10 (according to Rivals, which has data going back to 2002), and was the number 1 recruiting class in the Pac-10. Here are the Rivals 2002 Recruiting Rankings for the Pac-10 (rankings all denote national rankings):

Rank Team 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars Avg.
9 UCLA 2 12 11 3.58
13 USC 0 15 5 3.50
18 ASU 1 5 15 2.90
19 UW 1 9 10 3.48
25 UA 0 4 14 2.76

That was the class headlined by Lewis, Page, Olson, Moore. Also note this was the year Pom Pom took over at USC and salvaged a top-20 recruiting class in the last couple of weeks before the signing day. We all know what happened during the 2002 season. Toledo was fired at the end of the season. Dorrell was hired in late January. Despite starting strong early in the recruiting season, due to the Toledo firing and to Dorrell not getting into Westwood (yeah he was really indispensable for Bronco's playoff run lol) in early January of 03, UCLA scraped together a recruiting class that was not in the top-25 or within the top-5 of the Pac-10. Again here are Rival's 2003 Recruiting Rankings (Toledo Started/Dorrell Finished):

Rank Team 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars Avg.
2 USC 2 10 14 3.43
14 Cal 0 4 20 2.97
22 ASU 1 4 16 3.17
23 UW 0 2 22 2.96
25 Stanford 0 5 10 2.80
36 UCLA 0 6 9 3.11

So you would think after getting off to such a horrible start Dorrell and his coaching staff would come out with all their guns blazing on the recruiting trail. Not quiet. Dorrell's first recruiting class (which he was solely responsible for) failed to crack the national top-25 and get this - the Pac-10 top 5. Here are the Rivals Recruiting Rankings of 2004 (Dorrell's first full class):

Rank Team 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars Avg.
1 USC 8 7 3 4.05
12 Oregon 1 7 13 3.00
19 UW 1 3 9 2.78
23 Cal 1 6 6 3.00
25 WSU 0 4 9 2.61
34 UCLA 0 1 14 2.62

This was a pathetic effort no doubt fueled by Dorrell's team's disgraceful performance against Fresno State at some no name bowl in the Bay Area. It was a disgrace and sort of foreshadowed the ass kicking Dorrell and his coaching staff were taking not just from Pom Pom but from rest of the Pac-10. After his horrible performance in his first year Dorrell's staff put on another lack luster recruiting effort failing to land a Top-25 recruiting class in 2004. But to throw him a bone in his second full recruiting class was the 4th ranked recruiting class in the Pac-10 (big whoopti do). Here is the Rivals Recruiting Rankings of 2005:

Rank Team 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars Avg.
1 USC 4 11 5 3.95
9 Cal 1 9 12 3.38
21 UA 0 7 14 3.17
26 UCLA 1 3 12 3.00
28 Oregon 1 2 13 2.87

So after striking out in his first four tries (including his failure to salvage a good class after Toledo's firing), Dorrell was finally able to bring in a top-25 class this past season, which according to the Rivals was ranked no. 17 in the country and a distant second to SC's class in the Pac-10. Here are Rival's Recruiting Rankings for 2006:

Rank Team 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars Avg.
1 USC 5 14 6 3.96
17 UCLA 0 7 13 3.23
18 UA 1 6 17 3.28
19 Cal 0 9 8 3.30
28 ASU 0 5 15 3.04

Note there was not a single 5 star athlete in Dorrell's hall mark recruiting class. Actually except for Ben Olson (who was a transfer) Dorrell has not brought in a single 5 star recruit into Westwood. And if you want to snicker about the importance of Rival's recruiting rankings and their predictions on 5 star recruits, then I urge you to read this must read post from Brian at MGoBlog.

There is no denying that Dorrell inherited a lot of talent from Toledo which was competitive in terms of talent in the depth chart of USC, however during his tenure a huge talent gap has emerged between USC and UCLA. In fact Dorrell has not only been unable to keep up with USC, he has been unable to keep up with Jeff Tedford at Cal (you know the other public school from UC operating under the same budgetary constraints of UCLA). Here are the aggregate numbers of USC, Cal (from 2003 the year Tedford took over; Cal was a 1-10 team at the end of 2001 season which led to Holmoe firing), and UCLA from the recruiting classes from 2002-2006. Even counting Toledo's no. 9 recruiting class of 2002, the average rankings of UCLA's 5 classes are way behind USC and Cal:

Avg. Rank Team 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars Avg.
3.8 USC 19 57 33 3.78
16.25 Cal 2 28 46 3.16
24.8 UCLA 3 29 59 3.11
25.67 UCLA (KD) 1 11 28 2.95
28.25 UCLA (KD/BT) 1 17 35 2.99

And you can see from the chart above if we just count Dorrell's 3 full recruiting classes, the average ranking for UCLA still comes to just a pathetic 25.67, and if we count the in between class of 2003 (the one Toledo started and Dorrell finished), the average ranking of UCLA is 28.25. These are sad and pathetic numbers which are not only way behind USC, but also behind Cal. And we could see the talent gap on the field when UCLA played Cal at the Rose Bowl. We had to depend on some incredible individual performances of MJD and Drew Olson to eek out a win over Tedford's team which was killing us with its backup QB.

These are sad numbers for UCLA. And it is appalling to see people making arguments that somehow UCLA is on the right track just because we won 10 games last season and that we had a decent recruiting class. Again it is understandable that USC is pulling in top-5/10 recruiting classes. We expect that. It is fine. But there is just no excuse for UCLA justifying bringing in recruiting classes that have been barely finishing in the top-25 and at times not even in the top-5 of the Pac-10. That's a big joke. So to recap Dorrell is a less than average coach on the field. He is not really that great in putting together a clean cut program, and from these numbers it is evident he is not really all that great in recruiting? So tell me again why he is making almost a million bucks a year at UCLA?

And also this huge talent gap is a big reason why it is so urgent for UCLA to win 9 games and beat SC this year. We have to do it this year. Those bastards are reeling off the field. They are going to have an inexperienced backfield, a scrutinizing media, and we are going to have Ben Olson. We are going to have Olson and a defense which should be all fired up under a new DC.

So it's now or never for UCLA. If we don't do it this year (win 9 games and beat SC), it will never happen under Dorrell at UCLA. If we lose to SC this year, the talent gap will really become out of control. And it will be imperative for UCLA to either fire Dorrell or for him to step down if he wants to salvage a football program that built up a solid tradition of it own. Now or never. GO BRUINS.